A great many of us in the Estes Valley community are sickened by the Estes Park Health proposal to close the Living Center and evict its 29 elderly residents. Closing our beloved Living Center would not be in the best interest of the community. It is clearly not what the community wants. It is not congruent with our long-standing community values. And it certainly is not consistent with the stated vision, mission and values proclaimed by EP Health.
Closing the Living Center will destroy the lives of 29 frail and elderly residents who entrusted their care and lifesavings to the Living Center. These beloved seniors have no voice to plead for protection. In addition, closing the Living Center will result in the loss of Estes Park jobs when the 30-50 Living Center staff are fired. I believe as a strong, tight-knit community, we can do better than this. We can work hard to find a solution.
I attended the September 9th Virtual Town Hall meeting with the hope of hearing about alternatives to closing the Living Center.
My personal summary and take-aways from the September 9th Virtual Town Hall Meeting are as follows:
1. It was painfully obvious that the EP Health Senior Administration and their Board of Directors had already made the decision to close the Living Center, prior to seeking community input. The loud community objection caught them off guard and came as a surprise.
2. The Board of Directors emphatically opposes the use of word “eviction” to describe the event that will take place if Living Center is closed. However, all 29 residents must permanently vacate the facility prior to its closing date. Substituting the word “eviction” with a softer euphemism will not change the trauma of displacement that these frail, elderly residents will undergo. The fact is, they will be forced to leave the only home they have and be sent away to an unknown facility in another city, hours away from their families.
3. It is not only the current 29 Living Center residents that will suffer from its closing. Many residents in the Estes Valley community will have a need for a high-quality, caring, nearby skilled nursing facility at some point in our lives. Historically, the Estes Valley community has taken great pride in having one of the best long-term care facilities in the state, right here in our own town. We value its proximity so we can visit our loved ones every single day.
4. When questioned about whether alternatives to closing the Living Center had been SERIOUSLY researched and evaluated, it was clear that the EP Health Senior Administration had nothing to offer.
5. It appears that there has been no preparation or serious contemplation of a Business Plan to increase overall EP Health revenues. This is difficult to understand, considering their own projections of a profitable year in 2020 but a $7.5M loss in 2021. It seems their only recommendation is to close the Living Center; whose occupancy and monthly revenue is a source of steady and consistent revenue, even during this time of the COVID-19 Pandemic. Without any transparent explanation from the EP Senior Administration, this is baffling.
6. The EP Health Senior Administration emphatically claims that the Living Center is the major source of projected losses for the whole of EP Health. Many of us in the community are perplexed by this assertion. However, the community has no way of evaluating or substantiating these dire predictions because the Living Center financial information has been buried deep within EP Health’s public financial statements. The Estes Valley community has been given disturbingly little financial information to review. Therefore, the community is being asked to “just trust” what we are being told: That the only viable option to save EP Health is to quickly close the Living Center. The community has a have a right to clear, direct, transparent information, so we can form our own intelligent opinions based on facts.
7. When asked how the two large hospital wings that are currently occupied by the Living Center would be used upon closing, we were told that no one within the EP Health Senior Administration has given any thought to that issue. Frankly, I find this hard to believe.
8. While pursuing the idea of alternatives to closing the Living Center, one community member asked, “how much is paid in rent for the newly opened EP Health Urgent Care facility?” The CFO answered that he did not know and would have to research that answer. Again, there seems to be a serious lack of transparency regarding the community questions.
I left the meeting feeling sad that there was not even a small acknowledgment or expression of appreciation for the precious gem that we as a community have in our Living Center. Our community has always known that our local Living Center is high above others in Colorado in its quality of care. The community feels comfort knowing we have a haven for our loved ones: a high-quality, caring home that is close by, allowing us to visit every day. The Living Center is and always has been a great source of pride for the Estes Valley.
Notably, our Living Center has remained a COVID-free long-term care. We should be so proud and grateful for that! That level of accomplishment does not just happen. It is the result of the incredible hard work, dedication, and professionalism of the Living Center staff. We should be glowing and boasting and feeling incredibly proud to have such a fine facility in our small town!
We should not be looking for ways to justify its closing!
Finally, I must note that the EP Health Chief Nursing Officer frequently referred to the “number of beds” at the Living Center. It took me a few minutes to realize that she was referring to the 29 residents. Therein lies the cause of division and acrimony between the EP Health Senior Administration, its Board of Directors, and we as the Estes Valley community. The community and families think of the residents as precious individuals whose lives have great value. It appears that EP Health thinks of them in terms of beds, profits, and losses. We need to find some common ground and mutual understanding.
We, the Estes Valley Community, are trying our best to understand the EP Health Senior Administration’s perspective. But achieving any level of understanding is challenging, if not impossible, due to the lack of financial transparency. We have yet to feel that our beloved Living Center and its residents are thought of by EP Health Senior Administration in a way that reflects our deep community values.
These are extraordinary times which call for strong leaders to pull us through and give us hope for the future. It is not the time to rip from the community our beloved Living Center, which is a source of great pride, and gives us hope for our future.
I beg the EP Health Board of Directors to prevent the closing of our Living Center. Please do not allow the EP Health Senior Administration to take the easiest and quickest route in pursuit of their financial goals. Please encourage the EP Health Senior Administration to work harder and more earnestly to find another solution. Ask them to be bold and find a way. Closing our Living Center would be a terrible mistake that the Estes Valley Community would be forced to live with for generations to come.
Barbara Eddy Keilty ~ Estes Park